Attention Hollywood: Women Are More Than Just “Something to Look at”Suzanne Jannese
Last night the stars of TV celebrated the 66th Emmy™ Awards where Breaking Bad scooped all the biggest prizes, and good ol’ Sherlock played by Benedict Cumberbatch also triumphed. Hurrah. Except, as I surfed the web to read all the gossip, all I faced were headlines screaming: “Emmys™ 2014 Red Carpet Fashion: The Best and Worst Looks” and “Lena Dunham’s Emmy™ Dress Is ‘Tutu Much,'” among others. (FYI: Lena herself tweeted, “This massive skirt has created boundaries for me that I’m incapable of creating for myself. Thank you, skirt!)
Now imagine for one moment that you’re Dunham. You got ready with your boyfriend and buddies, looked in the mirror, liked what you saw, and then headed off for a fun time in a skirt that made you smile and gave you something to dance with. The next day you wake up to see that every skinny lollipop starlet is applauded for looking emaciated, and you? Well, let’s just say that the best you’ve been described is as a “cupcake.”
Doesn’t the whole “Best Dressed/Worst Dressed” or “Who Wore It Better?” mentality simply encourage women to compete against each other? Do we do it to the men? Do we say, “Oh Woody or Matthew, which detective wore the tux better?”
Moving on, I tried to get past the fashion commentary and read about the interviews on the red carpet. I’m not gonna lie: I found them utterly depressing. E! reporter Giuliana Rancic asked Hayden Panettiere about her pregnancy cravings (because she will definitely want to talk about chomping gherkins or eating entire tubs of ice cream, won’t she?) and asked Sofia Vergara what she eats (Who cares? Let me guess … food, maybe?), and then Ross Matthews asked actress Kerry Washington about how she lost her baby weight. Brilliant. No conversation about their careers, the characters they play, or any role they’d love to sink their teeth into. Nope, just baby weight, body image, and a veiled attempt at “How do you stay so slim?”
I’ll confess here that I’m a bit of a box-set junkie, a huge Modern Family fan, and haven’t missed an episode of Nashville yet. So, for me, there are many, many more questions I’d like answered than about these actresses’ dresses, nails, figures, and hair. Is that the only thing women are paraded on the red carpet for? The sum of their parts is just their mirror image? To compound this, during the awards show, Sofia Vergara was twirled on a pedestal (like a ballet dancer I had in my jewelry box when I was 7), as Academy of Television Arts and Sciences President Bruce Rosenblum used her amazing figure as evidence that TV throughout the years has given countless audiences “something to look at.” Tweeters were quick to call the whole segment “sexist” with one adding that Vergara was objectified in “a show that has only twice awarded a Latina woman with an acting award.”
Once again the man does the talking and the woman, well, she just looks pretty.
On through the news I went, hoping for something a bit brighter, only to be faced with an article in the UK Radio Times about the new X Factor series that’s returning to UK screens. Music mogul Simon Cowell discusses how he’s bringing pop singer Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (then Cole) back, after an absence from the UK show and after she was fired from the US version in 2011. Cowell has rarely talked about the reasons behind Cole’s axing, but admits that when she turned up at the auditions:
“I didn’t recognize her. Literally. The hair and outfit were crazy. Just totally crazy. I asked her manager, ‘What’s she wearing, what’s happened to her hair?’ He was defensive about it. I haven’t a clue why she turned up like that.”
Not content to leave the criticism there, he continues:
“We did the first day of auditions, and she was nervous, shy, not in her comfort zone. She’d put on a bit of weight, but not loads. That wasn’t the issue. The only way I can describe it is that it wasn’t Cheryl sitting in that seat. She’d lost her confidence.”
If Cole for one minute thought that Cowell was thinking any of the above, no wonder she lost her confidence! The photo on the left is of Cole that day; she doesn’t exactly look big in any way, does she? I have no idea how that would constitute “putting on a bit of weight.” If that’s “big,” where does that leave the rest of us? Now imagine if Cole had made comments about Cowell’s weight? His dodgy too-tight jeans, his paunch, his man boobs? Would she still have a job? Where is it right for a tiny size 2 woman to be rebuked for her style and her weight when she looks fantastic? Oh that’s right, in our world.
A world where women look pretty and men get the best paid jobs. Where men talk careers and goals and women talk nails and diets. Where women at pop awards shows compete to be as naked as possible and overtly sexual clothing is seen as “risque and empowering.” No man has to talk about what powder he’s been pressed with or how he lost weight after taking a summer off. (Can you imagine someone asking DiCaprio about his belly?!) No man would twirl on a pedestal “to give TV audiences something to look at.” No man has to starve himself to be tiny and doll-like to be on TV. So why do women have to do this? More importantly, why do they agree to this at all?
Photo credits: PCN Photos